Speaking as a Nigger

I note that I got a mention in the Jewish Chronicle:

“Gavin Sealey, another Labour member, confirmed his expulsion over antisemitism – but disputed that his repeated support for articles written by notorious antisemite Gild Atzmon supported this charge.”

For anyone interested in the facts see Case 3641

I in fact posted on Facebook eight links to Atzmon (is it obligatory to use his full title ‘notorious antisemite Gilad Atzmon’?) articles over a period of four years from July 2014 to November 2018. I joined the Labour Party in September 2015. I post links to very many articles on Facebook, currently up to 10 each day. There are several bloggers whose articles I find interesting and whose work I have referenced more that Atzmon’s they include or have included: John Pilger, Caitlin Johnstone, Jimmy Dore, Abby Martin, Vanessa Beeley, Craig Murray and several others. I do not burn books because they are forbidden by some authority and I don’t stop reading or discussing online articles because some authority has labled this or that author an antisemite or a racist or even a Tory.

I am not a ‘supporter’ of Atzmon or his work. I generally do not ‘support’ articles and I find the notion a little odd. I agree or disagree with things that are said in articles or I leave them there as notes that I may return to later. That’s how I use Facebook. It’s not my place or my interest to condemn Atzmon or to defend him. It is my place to defend my own freedom of thought and the freedom of thought and discourse of everyone.

After posting the paragraphs above to a Facebook group someone commented on my post:

“It still puzzles me why anyone would take Atzmon’s ravings seriously. He’s utterly bonkers.”

Someone in another group said:

“If you don’t understand why what you’ve posted there is antisemitic, and that Atzmon is a flat-out antisemite (regardless of his background) you really don’t belong in the Labour Party. Even Tony Greenstein, probably the noisiest anti-zionist in the UK says Atzmon is anti-semitic.”

They are telling me to be quiet. To shut my mouth. I will not shut my mouth.

I should make clear here that most of the responses to my post have, so far, been supportive. But if some people (and the JC) suggest that I am antisemitic or bonkers by association or otherwise then I think it is important to respond to that.

It puzzles me that people are so exercised about this man. I don’t care that much about Atzmon. His is just another voice. People who have come to a conclusion that he is bonkers may choose to have a conversation about how they came to that conclusion or choose not to; in either case they will have a human right to express opinion and present arguments. It is this right, not Atzmon, that I defend.

The premise underlying rational discourse is that parties to such discourse may be correct or incorrect in their assertions; justified or unjustified, wise or unwise, in holding particular postions and it is during the process of discourse that the correctness or incorrectness, truth or falsity of their position is to be discovered. To abort this process by intimidation is an assault on reason.

Why do I feel the need to passionately defend the principle of free speech, thought and discourse? I could say that it is because I have always valued philosophy not just as a study but as a way of being and relating. I think I got the bug when I was fifteen or sixteen and found in my school library volumes of the Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas. During school lunchtimes I would return to the library and dip into the argument and objections regarding the nature and existence of God. I didn’t get very far and I never returned to Aquinas but the structure of rational argument, of considering point and counterpoint became lodged within my soul. I could say a great deal in this vein and it would be wholly true. But my most personal reason for valuing Reason and freedom of thought and expression lies in my status as a nigger. And I claim the right to speak as a nigger (from the heart), not just as a philosopher (from the head).

To be a ‘nigger’ is to be told that you are worth less than any other sort of human being. It is to be told that your being and feeling and thinking are less significant than that of a white person. It is to be ‘othered’ throughout your life. It is to watch a powerful young white woman on television shout down an older less powerful black man as though he were a slave, screaming “How dare you. How absolutely dare you” before storming out followed by other powerful white people. It is to feel humiliated for him and to remember endless other humiliations, historic and present, of black people by powerful authority figures.

I defend principles of Reason because Reason tells me that niggers have value as persons and that, as persons, each of us is a source of value.

Reason tells me that each person is an end in himself or herself by virtue of being a living, reasoning soul. Reason tells me that the truth or untruth of what I say or what you say does not depend on whether you have more or less power than I do, but on whether what we say is evidenced, internally consistent and consistent with ethical principles such as the equal value of persons and their right to life and fundamental freedoms.

In the court of reason the powerful are subject to the same rules as the powerless. In that court niggers are equal to everyone else even those who keep shouting “how dare you. How absolutely dare you.”

To be a nigger is to be considered less than fully human. You do not have to be black to be a nigger (though it helps), you can be Palestinian, you can be an inhabitant of Gaza, you can be pounded day after day into the ground by a powerful state and know that nobody gives a fuck. Nobody gives a fuck about you because “the weak crumble, are slaughtered and are erased from history while the strong, for good or for ill, survive. The strong are respected, and alliances are made with the strong, and in the end peace is made with the strong”. Nobody gives a fuck because you have no power.

Yes there are people, Jewish and Gentile, black and white and of all shades who protest on behalf of the Palestinians as they protest and campaign on behalf of all the weak of this world; but we are nobodies. If we do not protest or discuss within boundaries set by the strong with whom alliances are made then we are extremists, antisemites, deplorables, in short niggers, to be disdained and excluded from a Labour Party whose Emily Thornberry has characterised Israel as a ‘beacon of freedom’.

To be a nigger is to be endlessly characterised as an untermensch but to be a nigger is to be connected to humanity, to be connected to the reality of each other’s pain and each other’s humanity. It is that connection that makes us human that makes us mensch in contradistinction to the self-considered ubermensch who shout at us “how dare you, how absolutely dare you” when we speak ‘out of turn’.

If people in the Labour Party don’t understand what I am saying here, and don’t understand that the essence of racism is the same as the essence of all oppression, that is to say the misuse of power to silence, to disempower and to dehumanise, then the person who said that I don’t belong in the Labour Party is quite right. I don’t.